Dean of Education

What does a dean of education do?

The dean of education is a trained professional that has significant authority within a tertiary institution. They are usually selected from senior faculty members within the education department. They act as a liaison between students and the administration, as well as between the faculty and the administration, handling disagreements and facilitating smooth operations.

Their responsibilities include: coordinating administrative activities, approving faculty hiring, evaluating faculty performance, supervising the budget, creating academic policies and programs, and fund-raising activities.

They determine course scheduling, and recommend the addition and implementation of courses to meet the needs of the students and the institution.

They also supervise and coordinate the activities of many different staff members such as associate deans, chairpersons, student advisors, registrars, financial aid directors and administrative staff.

The dean of education assesses programs and develops partnerships with internal and external organisations. They sometimes provide counselling and support to students on personal and academic matters.

Interview with a dean of education

Professor Zubeida Desai | DEAN OF EDUCATION | University of the Western Cape (UWC)
What does your profession involve?
Currently I am the Dean of the Education Faculty at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). As such I am the head of the Faculty and ultimately responsible for what happens in the Faculty – in terms of teaching, research and community outreach. As a Dean of Education I have to work with my faculty to provide quality teacher education so that through effective teaching the children of the poor have better opportunities in life.

Why did you choose this career?
I came into this job through teaching. I started as a high school teacher of English and History at schools on the Cape Flats during the late seventies and eighties. I joined UWC in 1989 as a lecturer responsible for the training of English teachers. Already as a child, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. While other children played ‘huisie huisie’ I played at being a teacher with my extended family. Looking back after 34 years in education, one rewarding aspect is when you come across ex-students who are successful adults and who thank you for the role you played in that.

What training did you undergo?
To be a teacher you need to have a first degree as well as a professional teacher’s diploma, so I did a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree before doing my Higher Diploma in Education (HDE). However, nowadays prospective teacher trainees can also do a four-year BEd degree to become a teacher. The minimum qualification to become a lecturer is a postgraduate masters degree, which I completed at the Institute of Education in London in Applied Linguistics.

What makes a teacher?
A teacher has to have lots of patience and needs to be a good listener and communicator. She/he should ideally be an extrovert and able to engage and excite young people. A dean – which is a leadership position – too needs to be a good communicator and listener, but also needs to be a decisive person able to make difficult decisions.

Describe a typical day on the job
Communicating via email and attending meetings play a big part in the job of a dean. Inevitably, there is a lot of reading of documents, articles and emails, so one needs to be a fast reader. Fortunately, there is space for just thinking and planning.

What do you enjoy most?
The engagement with young people and with ideas, and having the power to shape things.

Advice for newcomers?
Teaching is a vocation – you need to want to do it. Equip yourself thoroughly for the job, learning does not stop when you graduate. Work creatively with others to lessen the burden. And be technologically-sussed!


The most common way to become a dean of education is through academia. A dean of education typically needs to secure a position as a faculty member at a university, which usually means needing an advanced higher education degree. There are various qualification options available, such as studying for a bachelor’s degree followed by a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) or HDE (Higher Diploma in Education), or studying a Bachelor of Education degree. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a diploma or degree course is a prerequisite for this course of study. A qualification combined with years of teaching, publishing papers in journals and getting involved in university administrative matters, while working as a faculty member, can help establish the solid reputation that is typically required to become a university dean. Most tertiary institutions provide on-the-job training to new deans to enable them to learn the procedures and policies of the institution. They must keep their skills up to date and stay abreast of advancements in the field. They often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers.


Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Depends on the study field of interest


University of Western Cape
Post Graduate Certificate in Education; Bachelor of Education

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Education: General Education (with specialisation in Senior Secondary School)

University of Johannesburg
Bachelor of Education: Further Education and Training

North-West University
Bachelor of Education: Senior and Further Education and Training Phase

University of Pretoria
Bachelor of Education: Further Education and Training

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Bachelor of Education: Further Education and Training

University of Stellenbosch
Bachelor of Education: General Education

Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Teaching Diploma

Tshwane University of Technology
Teaching Diploma


National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa –
South African Council for Educators –